Monday, July 29, 2013

Big Merger, Big Data and PR Kings

Sunday's announcement that Publicis and Omnicom are merging is another sign that digital/big data will rule the day for the immediate future in the world of communications, marketing, advertising and public relations.

The merger of these two large holding companies also holds the potential of further blurring the lines of who is leading the strategic discussion, and raises the question as to whether a "combined" company offering integrated services is better than various disciplines focusing on their strengths in independent fashion.

Certainly, the focus of news articles is on advertising largeness of these two holding companies, but the bigger discussion should be about overall communications strategy, opportunities and threats for public relations and so on.

Omnicom Group owns several public relations agencies, including Ketchum, Porter Noveli and FleishmanHillard.  Aside from speculation about the future of other PR agencies within Omnicom and the overall operations of the combined company, the merger news allows anyone in PR to take stock of Big Data and digital communications.

Since its beginnings, public relations has been about gaining insights into trends, mindsets, motivations and behaviors, then using this information and research to develop communications strategies. In the digital era, there is now a wealth of new research and information that creates opportunities for specialists who can mine and analyze data collected from our computers and phones, from cash registers and more.

While these specialists are highly sought after, the role of the PR pro remains as important and as critical.

From my perspective, the digital era has caused more disruptions in the advertising world than in the public relations dominion. PR pros have appeared far more adept at adopting new tactics with the additional insights of big data, but haven't strayed far from the pillars of sound communication strategies.  Another way to think about this: We are simply being offered different inputs to develop what we are hired to do - influence outcomes, promote products and services, communicate with our customers and target audiences, etc.  The subtle changes in process are well documented, such as: Customer segmentation is growing so we need to be even more targeted in our communications, or we need to drive more "engagement," which is another way of saying we need to get someone to focus on our story or product. ( For one Big Data for PR 101 lesson, go here. There are plenty of others.)

So, will a mega merger change the landscape?  Will it create more opportunities for public relations to lead communications strategies?

If anything, now is an extremely opportunistic time for PR pros to grab attention - with existing clients and potential ones, with their corporate bosses and with prospective or existing partners.

Remind them who is in charge of developing the strategies and the message, the keepers of the brand and the most experienced person in the room to properly analyze any and all data.

Nothing like leveraging a major announcement to one's advantage, eh?